We recently celebrated our 8th year of marriage by taking a day off. My mum came to help with the kids, and we took off — the entire day. We didn’t plan anything big or extra special. We just went for a prata breakfast, walked around town a bit, shopped, talked, took a tea break, and then ended with a light dinner and drinks atop the National Gallery.
With no kids around, it felt like our conversations were so adult-like, so quiet (like a mini-retreat, which is one of the things we do to keep love alive.) But it was good because we got to touch base about what we were feeling, and we got to hear each other’s struggles and fears.
I’m thankful that we’ve come so far. And I’m also aware that we have a long road ahead of us, God-willing.
Here are 8 important things I’ve learnt in our 8-year journey.
1) Show your true self, even when it doesn’t look good
Marriage requires trust, which is probably the most difficult thing to build, and the easiest to tear down. It requires us to allow ourselves to be seen by our spouses, to be vulnerable. I don’t know about you but there are times I just don’t want to show my weaknesses and flaws; I want to present my strongest side, my best self. Ironically, the more we try to hide, the harder it is to build trust and cultivate healthy love in our marriage.
2) What we have now is better than what we had 8 years ago
Worldly wisdom tells us that most marriages tend to go nowhere but down. I guess the increasing divorce rates across the globe speak for themselves.
However, I believe it’s possible for things to get better over time – the key is hard work, a dash of humour, and lots of grace. While things can get a bit stale after a while in the love department, always remember that what you have at the end of many years of ups and downs is a marriage that is stronger to withstand trials and temptations. It may not be lovey-dovey sweet nothings all the time but it’s a love that is faithful, committed, practical and lasting. A love that helps you both become the people God created you to be. And that is a love to be thankful for.
3) The small things matter
Small acts like making him his favourite coffee in the morning, allowing her to sleep in while you take care of the kids, saying “thank you” and “I love you,” laughing yourselves silly over a joke, kissing before leaving for work, and a hug at the end of a long day – these are seemingly small and insignificant things but you’ll be surprised how they add up.
4) The big things matter too
Like keeping your word when you said you wouldn’t drink and drive, like keeping faith and not doing anything to betray his/her trust, like being there for your family whenever you can, like working to resolve unresolved issues that seem to crop up again and again.
The small things may not add up to a break-up, but neglecting them over a prolonged period of time could lead to one or both parties feeling disconnected – you know the feeling where you don’t feel like you know who you’re married to anymore – which could then lead to the bigger things. So keep your eye on the small things, while also minding the big.
5) You need to first love yourself
Brené Brown wrote about this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection and it resonated deeply with me.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
When we are unable to love ourselves, or when we hold ourselves in contempt and disdain, it’s likely we will lash out at others with the same disdain and critical spirit. But accept yourself as a human being with strengths and weaknesses, and with the capacity to grow and learn, and you will likely be more forgiving to others as well.
When I struggle with loving myself or others, I remind myself of what the bible says, “We love because He first loved us.” Jesus doesn’t love us because we are loveable, but He sees us as His own, and He chooses to love us anyway.
6) It takes a village
Every relationship needs a support network to thrive. People who have been through the good times and bad, people who will be able to give you sound advice and walk with you when you’re going through a bad patch, people whom you can trust to have your best interests at heart.
7) When he /she needs space after an argument, give exactly that
I’ve been through my fair share of pounding on his closed door and demanding that “we deal with this right now.” But it has always backfired. 100% of the time.
When the man needs his space, he needs it. Otherwise he can’t think, much less verbalize to you what he’s feeling. I think the same goes for some women too. Over the years, I’ve learnt to distract myself from the urge to push him into the corner, and just give ourselves some time to sleep on it and cool down. This, on the other hand…always works.
8) It’s possible to fall in love all over again
Over the years, she may grow naggier. He may get grumpier and more stubborn too. But it is possible to not let love stagnate and die a slow death during the winter years.
How? Break from routine, from the predictable. Do something out of the ordinary once in a while. Remind yourself of the good things, the things to be thankful for. There is a verse in the bible that says, “…whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I’m not suggesting that you create an illusion of your partner, or that you swing into extreme denial of certain faults or issues that should be dealt with. But I think for most of us, our brains are so hardwired to pick out the bad things that sometimes we need to re-train ourselves to see the good that is there.
See the good. Be thankful. And fall in love all over again.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about love/marriage this year?
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